What’s really at stake in the Lukacs affair

Degree minus requirements equals zero.

The case of Gabor Lukacs continues to spur debate at the University of Manitoba and across the country. Lukacs, recall, is the mathematics professor who was suspended after he rebelled against a Dean’s decision to allow a PhD student to graduate without passing a comprehensive exam. If U of M officials thought suspending Lukacs for “insubordination” (among other things) would make the case go away, they were wrong.

For all of our coverage of this story, please click here.

The National Post, among other media outlets, has picked up the story and Joseph Brean’s article reminds readers of  details that must surely now be embarrassing to the Winnipeg university. Of particular interest is the fact that the mathematics department did try to accommodate the student by giving him more time to write the exam, but that attempt at accommodation was refused by Dean John Doering. Also of interest is the fact that  Doering allowed the student in question to count an undergraduate course towards his graduate degree.

While minor university regulations are sometimes waived under special circumstances, it is hard for this humble blogger to see how waiving such  major requirements could ever be countenanced, even given the need for reasonable accommodation of medical conditions. It is not for a dean, or any administrator, or, indeed any individual, to waive a major regulation at will, especially contrary to the wishes of the department. Dr Doering, though well qualified to be a dean, is not a mathematician, and even if he was, he should not presume to decide on his own which requirements count and which do not.

If the comprehensive exam is deemed not necessary for a Ph.D. in mathematics, the requirement should be eliminated according to the academic procedures of the university. That way the merits of the regulation can be fully debated by those best able to judge them. If a dean can waive the requirement for the exam and for coursework, what’s to stop him from waiving the requirement for a thesis, too (perhaps on the basis of a student’s thesis anxiety)? And then what is left?

Hours ago, reports began to circulate that the U of M Senate entertained a motion that would have, in effect, vindicated Doering’s decision by affirming that the Dean had the authority to waive regulations all along. For the time being, that motion has been referred back to the U of M Senate executive. Let’s hope it never finds its way back to the Senate floor.

If this is a small victory for those of us committed to academic integrity, it is still a victory. This writer hopes it will not be the last.




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What’s really at stake in the Lukacs affair

  1. Clearly, now that the facts of the situation have come out, Mr. Doering should resign his position and leave the university in disgrace. Perhaps then University of Manitoba Ph.D. degrees can be restored to their former dignified standing — but not while Mr. Doering remains an employee of the university. Resign, sir! Now!

  2. These actions by the University of Manitoba has turned it into an international joke. All of us who have received degrees in Canada have been robbed of part of our intellectual prestige. What’s to prevent anybody from questioning whether any Canadian degree is as easy to obtain as it apparently is at the U of Manitoba?

  3. A memo has been circulated offering the other side of the story (naturally, the side that’s been so conveniently left out here); the student was awarded a Ph.D. on the basis of the quality of his thesis and multiple journal articles that he has published, rather than the one, single “just-slightly-under-A” exam that was written.

    If you want to punish someone, punish the mass media folks here who know nothing about Ph.D. programs, who’ve been manipulating the facts, if not flat out lying, and setting out on this outrageous smear campaign to destroy both the reputation of my University, and the career of this poor student.

    Ridiculous!

  4. Thank you to G.Jacobs for finely talking some sense. Anyone want to take back what they said now that rest of the story is out?

  5. The fact that the student, regardless of the circumstances, did not complete the requisite courses and examination and thereby meet the requirements for the awarding of the degree is all that matters. The awarding of the Ph.D. to a person that has not succesfully completed the work makes a mockery of the hard work done by all those that have earned the degree.

    The fact the student couldn’t successfully complete the exam but could write succesful papers raises the spectre of his not actually doing writing the papers.

    The principle at stake is enormous. If someone cannot clear the hurdles they do not earn the degree. It’s that simple. It may produce occassionally unfortunate results but it ensures the integrity of the academic system.

  6. This was a straight A student with a disability for writing exam confirmed by doctor in psychology. What do you mean overcome hurdles do you also expect people in wheelchairs to use stairs?

    The professor was not suspended based on going against the university it’s because he decided to violate privacy acts protecting the student.

  7. Would it surprise anyone to know that passing a failed PhD candidate is not unique to U of Manitoba? I was an eyewitness to a similar incident at a U of Toronto department years ago. It was done quietly. That student is now a professor in a Canadian university and is propagating his academic standards to more generations of students. At that time, I stayed silent. I therefore commend Prof. Lukacs for his stalwartness in trying to maintain the academic standards at his university.

  8. If the university dictators take a shining to you – and they will generally do so if you are left wing and regurgitate all their left wing drivel – you can get away with murder.

    It sounds to me like this bogus Ph.D. was given to someone who MAY not have been doing the work himself. The profs probably liked him because he was an apple polisher and made them look good. Heaven help anyone who dares to expose one of their little darlings as a fraudster.

    Someone really needs to question and expose the b.s. that goes on at universities. They have been dominated by left wing, totalitarian bullies for too long. They go apoplectic when someone dares to question their authority.

    What a black mark on the U of Winnipeg, but good for the profs and students who stood up for Gabor Lukacs and his exemplary principles.

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